Graham Nash of Hollies and Crosby Stills & Nash fame to make Cambridge Folk Festival debut
Over the past 50-plus years, there isn’t much that Graham Nash hasn’t achieved in his career – although he’s never played the Folk Festival before.
The list of artists inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame twice are a fairly select few – seen-it-all singer/songwriter Graham Nash is one of them.
Joining the likes of John Lennon and Paul McCartney (inducted as members of the Beatles and as solo artists), Paul Simon (Simon & Garfunkel and solo) and Jimmy Page (the Yardbirds and Led Zeppelin), 77-year-old Nash was honoured as a member of Crosby, Stills & Nash (CSN) in 1997 and then again in 2010 for his time with the Hollies.
Having also enjoyed considerable success as a solo artist, the two-time inductee into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame – both as a solo artist and with CSN – will be appearing on stage one at the Cambridge Folk Festival on Friday, August 2.
Nash’s remarkable body of work began with his contributions to the Hollies impressive catalogue from 1964 to 1968 (the year of his departure from the band).
Songs he had a hand in writing during this time include Stop Stop Stop, On a Carousel and Carrie Anne.
CSN songs that bear a Graham Nash songwriting credit include Marrakesh Express, Teach Your Children and Our House (not to be confused with the Madness song of the same name). This Path Tonight (2016) is his most recent solo album.
For more than four decades, the Salford-born musician called California home but he is now a resident of New York City.
“I’ve lived in New York for the last two or three years and it’s been a wonderful experience – this is a great city,” he enthuses.
“It’s noisy and it’s dirty sometimes, but it’s a fabulous city; I mean I can hear eight languages before I get my Starbucks.”
Although there is a slight American twang to his voice, Nash still sounds unmistakeably English.
Does he feel more American than English after so many years living on the other side of the Atlantic?
“No, I’ve always felt English,” he says. “I’ve always been very different than my friends – and I’m talking about David [Crosby] and Stephen [Stills] and Neil [Young].
"I’ve always felt incredibly English and I’ll always be English – that’s the way it is. I’ve been an American citizen for over 40 years, though.”
Nash says he’s looking forward to performing at the Cambridge Folk Festival.
“I’m going to bring two musicians with me – Shane Fontayne, my lead guitar player, and Todd Caldwell, who was the B3 organ player in the Crosby, Stills & Nash band – and we’re having a fabulous time,” he says.
The musician will be playing tracks from his entire career.
“A couple of years ago, I started my shows with Bus Stop [a Hollies tune from 1966] and the Hollies are very appreciated here in America – much more than you would think,” says Nash, who elaborates on how it feels to be a ‘60s survivor’ knowing that so many of his musical contemporaries from that era have now passed away: “I guess at 77, I realise I’m coming towards the end of my life...
“I could drop dead in the middle of this conversation, or I could last another 30 or 40 years – I’ll take whatever it is that the universe wants with me. But wow, I realise that losing great musicians is a constant reminder of our fragility...
"With David Bowie and Prince and Glenn Frey, incredible musicians that have passed way before the time they should have passed...
“So when you read the newspaper and you see that somebody passed away, it makes you feel very fragile and it makes you realise that you are coming to the end of this lollipop – and I’m just going to keep doing what I do until the very end.
"I’m always creating, I’m always thinking of something to do positively. I’m at a good point in my life and I’ve finally come to realise that I might be worth something.”
Nash will take time out to visit family and friends when he’s over in the UK.
“I have my sister in the north of England that I hang out with,” he says, “and I have a couple of dear friends in the north of England who have been friends of mine for 60, 70 years.
"I still keep in contact with Allan Clarke from the Hollies. We’ve become very good friends – again. It was a little weird there at the beginning when I left, but we’ve straightened out our relationship and now we’re doing very well.”
For all the CSN fans out there, there may well be much to look forward to as far as previously unheard music is concerned.
“There’s lots of things to go on,” says Nash. “Just recently, we legally became the owners of everything that we’ve recorded – except the records that we delivered to the record company.
"There was a time when our record company thought that they owned everything that we’d ever recorded – and I recorded CSN every night and every show for the last 40 years.
“But we had to make sure that they understood that even though they owned all the Crosby, Stills & Nash records that they paid us handsomely for, if I record me and David and Stephen in my bathroom doing something really incredible, you don’t own that – we do, and that finally was worked out legally.
"So I’ve been delving into the enormous storage facility that we have in Los Angeles and I’m slowly going through it all.”
Fans of the trio – who later recruited Neil Young to become Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – shouldn’t hold their breath for a reunion, however.
“CSN will never play again,” states Nash. “It’s a shame but it’s the way it is. We have to love each other before we can make music – we have to like each other and right now I don’t like David Crosby, and that’s all I’m saying.”
Another musical project may also see the light of day.
“You’ve got to realise that me and David [Crosby] have sung with many famous people on their hits,” explains Nash, who doesn’t rule out collaborating with Neil Young again in the future.
“We have about 25 recordings of us with James Taylor, with Jimmy Webb, with Art Garfunkel, with Phil Collins, with Kenny Loggins...
"We’ve done all these incredible background vocals and that might make an interesting record once I get a little time.”
This year marks 50 years since the era-defining Woodstock Festival in the US, at which CSN performed.
“It was an interesting concert,” recalls Nash. “It grew in myth way more than it was in actual reality.
"I must tell you that if all the people that have come up to me in the last 50 years telling me they were at Woodstock were really there, the planet would have tilted.
“But I thought we did pretty good and I’ve got to tell you, that 50 years went by very quickly. It’s stunning really.”
This writer suggested to Nash, without trying to sound too sycophantic, that he looks rather good for his age, despite the much-publicised excesses of the music industry. What’s his secret?
“I never over-indulged,” he says simply. “I tried to keep up with my partners, but I stopped snorting cocaine in one night.
“December 10, 1984 – I remember the date. I’m just not an addictive personality, and that probably saved me.”
Asked to recount a ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ story from his past, Nash – who says he no longer recognises his much-changed home town of Salford – recalls: “One of them that comes to mind is we got a call from Hillary Clinton one day.
"She wanted to surprise Bill for his upcoming birthday. So we got in [businessman/record company founder] David Geffen’s plane and flew to Washington DC and sang Happy Birthday to Bill Clinton with just the three of us singing on the lawn at the White House. "That was kind of interesting.”
Graham Nash will be appearing on Friday, August 2 at the Cambridge Folk Festival.
Standard full festival tickets are £179. Standard tickets for the Friday are £73.50.